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Portrait of Mrs. Sophia Vandergucht

George Romney, English, 1734 - 1802

c. 1786-1789

Oil on canvas

30 1/8 x 25 1/4 inches (76.5 x 64.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of George D. Widener, 1972

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Commissioned from the artist by her husband Benjamin Vandergucht (1753-1794) for Sophia (Egles) Vandergucht (1757-1813); by inheritance to her daughter Sarah Vandergucht (d. 1883) [1]; kept in the house of Sarah's nephew (and Sophia's grandson), Brodie Augustus Willcox (1815-1901), London, by 1872 [2]; by gift or inheritance to Sarah Vandergucht's nephew General Benjamin Van der Gucht (1828-1902); by inheritance to his brother General Thomas Van der Gucht (1833-1916); by inheritance to his son Colonel Rupert Van der Gucht (d. 1916); by inheritance to Rupert Van der Gucht's sister Hilda Constance (Van der Gucht) Sleeman (1872-1948); her sale, Christie's, London, July 14, 1922, no. 47 ("Portrait of Mrs. Vandergucht") [3]; purchased by Duveen Brothers, London [4]. With Knoedler & Co., New York? [5]; George D. Widener (1889-1971), Philadelphia; bequest to PMA, 1972. 1. Details of the provenance of this painting and the history of the Vandergucht family are courtesy of Stephen Benson, a descendant of the sitter (communication of January 23, 2011, in curatorial file). Mr. Benson notes that there is no specific reference to the painting in Sophia's will, but the information regarding Sarah's inheritance is given in a letter from Thomas Van der Gucht dated November 25, 1909. In the 19th century the family began spelling their name "Van der Gucht". 2. Willcox was the son of Sophia's daughter Sophia Ann (1781-1871) and Brodie McGhie Willcox (1784-1862). He lent the painting, as "Portrait of Mrs. [Sophia] Vandergucht," to the Royal Academy of Arts winter loan exhibitions of 1872 and 1894. A description of the painting in the catalogue of the winter 1894 Royal Academy "Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School" (no. 140) reads: "Half figure, seated to l., three-quarter face; her l. arm rests on the arm of her chair; light-coloured riding dress, large black hat; she holds a whip in her hands; sky background." An abraded partial label on the reverse from a Royal Academy exhibition, probably that of 1894, includes the date "18...", the title "[So]phia / gh [?]" and a lender name beginning "B...". Richard Dorment (British Painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1986, no. 92) erroneously identified the PMA painting as the "Portrait of a Lady" lent by Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild (1842-1918) of Seamore Place, London and Halton House, Buckinghamshire, to the Royal Academy's "Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School," winter 1886, no. 29. No painting of this description appears in the Rothschild collection catalogue of 1884 or collection inventories, and the 1886 catalogue entry describes a woman in three-quarter profile to the right, whereas the woman in this painting is turned to the left. 3. The painting was not illustrated in the sale catalogue, but a magazine clipping in the photo archive of the Huntington Library illustrating the painting in the 1922 sale proves that it is the PMA's portrait (scanned image in curatorial file, courtesy of Melinda McCurdy, Huntington Library). The sale catalogue notes that "for some years [it] was in the care of Brodie A. Willcox, Esq., whose wife was a Miss Vandergucht," however this is incorrect, as it was his mother who was a Vandergucht, and he never married. The catalogue also states that "the pictures are now the joint property of the two daughters of the late General Thomas Vandergucht;" however, according to Mr. Benson, the painting was consigned to Christie's by Hilda and her husband Philip Sleeman. 4. Buyer name from the PMA's annotated sale catalogue. 5. The painting's reverse bears labels of the type Knoedler used; one of which is marked "Widener" in pencil.